A sad day for Scotland, claims gay row minister

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A CHURCH of Scotland minister has become the first to announce he is to leave the Kirk after it voted to accept openly gay ministers.

The Rev Roddy MacRae said he would stand down as minister of Glenelg and Kintail in the Highlands during the next few months, claiming the Kirk had "capitulated to society".

He said that the Kirk had treated traditionalist evangelicals such as himself as almost unwanted.

"You've got people who don't believe in the virgin birth … and they are acceptable within the Church, but now people like myself, who believe the Word is inspired, are marginalised and perhaps even treated as a disease within the Church. It's a sad day for Scotland."

He added: "I'll probably be one of the people who will be leaving the Church of Scotland and over the next few months I'll be working that out in my mind and speaking to various different people."

Mr MacRae's decision follows a controversial vote by the General Assembly to commission a two-year report looking at accepting openly gay people to be ordained as ministers, as well as allowing existing openly gay ministers, who entered the ministry before 2009, to remain within the Kirk.

A theological commission will be set up to report in 2013, before a final decision on the issue of gay ordination is taken.

However, Mr MacRae said he believed the outcome would see the ordination of openly gay clergy allowed.

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"I'm fairly confident that will be the case," he said. "Certainly the way the voting (on Monday] went, in a different way from even two to four years ago - on different issues in a similar area - you could see a significant change within the thinking of the Church."

In 2009, a temporary ban was imposed on the ordaining of gay ministers following the appointment of the Church of Scotland's first openly gay minister, the Rev Scott Rennie, to Queen's Cross Church in Aberdeen.

The ban came as a result of a complaint by the Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye, of which Mr MacRae is a member.

Mr MacRae said the decision to allow Mr Rennie's appointment had been a "watershed moment", and he had been sure the debate would end with the Assembly opting to consider ordaining openly gay ministers.

He said of Monday's decision: "It's a sad day for Scotland. It affects every church and we really need to think through where we go from here as an evangelical body, for the glory of God and for the sake of the people of Scotland."

Following the vote on Monday, 119 people signed a notice of dissent against the setting up of a theological commission to examine allowing the ordination of gay people, while 120 dissented against allowing openly gay ministers ordained before 2009 to remain.

Mr MacRae called on his fellow evangelicals to "stand up and be counted".

He added that some Kirk members would consider joining the more traditionalist Free Church. "I'm going to take my time about and sit down with evangelical brothers. Some will have congregations who want to leave entirely, some will be ministers with a few people and some ministers with none."He said he thought that issues that had previously separated Kirk evangelicals from those in the Free Church ones were "secondary".

Though he is the first to announce his departure publicly since Monday's decision, the Rev Thomas Mackinnon resigned after the 2009 Assembly in protest at Mr Rennie's appointment.

Reacting to Mr MacRae's announcement, the Rev John Chalmers, Principal Clerk of the Kirk, said that it had not received any official notification as to his position to within the Church of Scotland.

He added: "We have already recognised that the decision taken by the General Assembly on Monday will have caused hurt to some people.

"It is disappointing that any minister would feel the need to leave the Church when no final decisions have been taken, and the Church has agreed to hold more dialogue on this issue, leading to a further report which will not be heard until 2013."